December 28, 2004: Headlines: COS - Hungary: Adventure: Hungary RPCV Heather O'Neal lives life of adventure

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Hungary: Peace Corps Hungary : The Peace Corps in Hungary: December 28, 2004: Headlines: COS - Hungary: Adventure: Hungary RPCV Heather O'Neal lives life of adventure

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Hungary RPCV Heather O'Neal lives life of adventure

Hungary RPCV Heather O'Neal lives life of adventure

Hungary RPCV Heather O'Neal lives life of adventure

Ann Arbor native lives life of adventure
12/28/2004, 5:42 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Heather O'Neal's business card is about a quarter-inch larger than the average 2-by-3 1/2-inch card stock rectangle. That may not seem like much, but after flipping the card over it quickly becomes clear why that extra space is needed.

Almost three dozen different business ventures crowd the back of the card.

And O'Neal loves every one of them.

"I was thinking I should teach a class on finding one's dream job," O'Neal said.

Scanning the list, it becomes obvious that she would be an experienced teacher. After making a living leading "customized adventures in trekking and exploring in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal," running "the Everything's Art Gallery," operating a "butterfly rescue" and participating in "endless other projects," how could she not?

O'Neal's drive to live her dreams started with a trip to Nepal in her junior year of college. For a year she lived in Katmandu and "fell in love." But the need to finish her studies called her home, and after graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1989, O'Neal worked for the Peace Corps and eventually took a job as an English teacher in Spain.

However, in 1998 when a friend suggested they quit their jobs and travel, O'Neal jumped at the opportunity.

Returning to Nepal and the Himalayas was a must.

With the idea of taking small groups of people on treks through Nepal, O'Neal returned to her childhood home in Ann Arbor and began brainstorming in 1999.

"I wanted to do small-group customized tours of up to six people," O'Neal said. "But I knew I had to take larger groups to make any money."

That's when the small Old West Side house went up for sale. O'Neal liked the creamy yellow 19th century home, but couldn't afford it on her own.

"I thought I could get a roommate, but I thought that was boring, so I called the city and asked about starting a bed and breakfast," O'Neal said.

Since the bed and breakfast would be less than eight rooms, O'Neal said city officials told her to "just go for it."

And with that "The Eighth Street Trekkers' Lodge" was born. With her bed and breakfast a success, O'Neal formed her travel company "Of Global Interest" and took her first paying customer to Nepal for three weeks in the spring of 2000.

But O'Neal's travel company is about much more than taking people on far-off adventures. Of Global Interest's motto is "Bringing you around the world and bringing the world around to you."

And O'Neal literally brings the world into the homes of anyone interested.

When she goes on trips overseas, she records her adventures in a journal, then e-mails the entries to everyone on her mailing list.

Her e-mail journal isn't the only way O'Neal brings the world home, though.

She also helps local residents experience the world by leading "gourmet dinner treks," or hikes around Ann Arbor that include stops for a picnic meal that O'Neal carries on her back.

Usually, O'Neal charges a small fee for the treks to cover expenses, but on New Year's Eve, she has planned a free traveling dinner trek between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

The party started last year, and everyone involved had so much fun that O'Neal decided to have another one.

Most of the 15-mile hike, which starts at The Eighth Street Trekkers Lodge, will be through parks along the Huron River, with stops at picnic tables for a several-course potluck dinner. At the end, tired but satisfied, trekkers will arrive at Ypsilanti's Jubilee to ring in the New Year.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

The World's Broken Promise to our Children Date: December 24 2004 No: 345 The World's Broken Promise to our Children
Former Director Carol Bellamy, now head of Unicef, says that the appalling conditions endured today by half the world's children speak to a broken promise. Too many governments are doing worse than neglecting children -- they are making deliberate, informed choices that hurt children. Read her op-ed and Unicef's report on the State of the World's Children 2005.

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